As we come to the coldest, darkest time of the year, the season of Advent begins; the season of waiting. In this season, we wait for the Son of God to come into the world. With the birth of Jesus, God’s plan of salvation will begin to unfold, bringing a new hope for all nations. A light will shine out in the darkness.
How should we spend the season of waiting? Jesus tells his disciples: ‘Be on your guard! Stay awake!’ As disciples of Jesus, we should be alert and watching out for his coming. The time of waiting is a time of preparation.
We prepare ourselves to welcome the Saviour by prayer and by repentance; looking honestly at ourselves and at our lives, to see where we need to change our ways and turn back to God. The prophet Isaiah, in today’s First Reading, speaks on behalf of the people of Israel. They have forgotten their faith and wandered away from God, and the prophet begs the Lord to turn back to his chosen people and restore their integrity. St Paul gives practical advice to the Christians in Corinth; God will keep them ‘steady and without blame.’ By living a good life, doing the simple things well, they will bear witness to Christ.
The time of waiting should not be time wasted. With God’s grace, the season of Advent can be a fruitful time, when we pray, reflect and repent. Then we will be awake and ready to welcome the Lord when he comes.
Though lockdown ends this Wednesday, many members of our community could still be feeling isolated. If you are in need of any practical help, eg with grocery shopping or collecting prescriptions, or if you just want to chat, please contact Fr Andrew by email, or by telephone on 0191 384 3442. If you know of someone who might need support, please make contact with them, or let Fr Andrew know.
Parish bulletins and Catholic newspapers will be available for collection in a box outside the church door. Please pick up a copy of the bulletin and put it through the letterbox of a friend or neighbour who might not be able to get out.
The Diocese of Middlesbrough has set up a system to allow people who do not have internet access to listen to Mass over the telephone. This service can be accessed by calling 01642 130120.
The University Hospital of North Durham still has restrictions in place regarding visits to patients – see the hospital website for the latest information. However, the Catholic Chaplain is still able to visit patients, and can bring them Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Sick. If you know of a patient who wishes for a visit from the Catholic Hospital Chaplain, please inform Fr Paul Tully on 01388 818544 or email@example.com
For visits to patients in St Cuthbert’s Hospice, in care homes or in their own homes, please contact Fr Andrew.
If your son or daughter is in school Year 4 or above, and you would like them to prepare to celebrate First Communion this year, please contact Fr Andrew.
CAFOD World Gifts are a range of virtual charity gifts that will delight the people you give them to and help transform the lives of families living in poverty. www.cafod.org.uk
St Cuthbert’s Care is our diocesan charity, which works to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. To find out more about their work, and to donate, see https://stcuthbertscare.org.uk/
Durham Winter Night Shelter will be providing emergency accommodation for homeless people in the city on the coldest nights of the year. This year, the shelter has had to adapt in order to become Covid-secure. Please support Durham Winter Night Shelter with your prayers, and financially if you can, via https://www.justgiving.com/northeast-mission The shelter also needs volunteers – contact Fr Andrew if you’re interested.
Catholicism and Music. Presented by Sir James MacMillan, University of St Andrews. Sir James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful composers, and a Durham graduate. Wednesday 9th December at 6.00pm, online. See Centre for Catholic Studies website for details and registration.
In John’s Gospel, when Pontius Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king, Jesus replies, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ Today, on the last Sunday of the Church’s year, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. But Jesus is a different sort of King to the rulers of this world; he is a Good Shepherd who knows and loves every member of his flock. And the kingdom of heaven is very different to worldly kingdoms.
Today’s Gospel reading shows Jesus seated on his throne of glory, to judge the whole human race. People of all nations will stand before the seat of judgement. Jesus tells his disciples that they will be judged by how they treated ‘the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.’ Did they feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty? Did they welcome the stranger and give clothes to the naked? Did they visit those who were sick or in prison? These are the values of the kingdom of heaven; not power or money, but care for the poor and needy. This is how we will be judged – not on our words, but on our care for others.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a distance between people, in many ways. In these strange times, it is more difficult to reach out to our neighbours. But there are still ways that we can show our care and concern for one another, using technology or by more old-fashioned means. This is what the Lord asks of us. These are the ways that we help to build the kingdom of heaven in the world.
National Youth Sunday is celebrated today on the Feast of Christ the King. On this day, we celebrate the young people in our parishes and communities. This year’s theme is ‘Together’. While our parish community can’t gather as we usually would, we are united in prayer for our young people, and for those who minister to them. For more information and resources, see www.nationalyouthsunday.com
Our own diocesan Youth Ministry Team continues to work among our young people in spite of the pandemic. See www.ymt.org and www.youtube.com/user/life2dfull To support the work of the YMT, please send a cheque to Youth Ministry Trust, Emmaus Youth Village, Pemberton Rd, Consett DH8 9BA, or make a BACS payment. Account name; Youth Ministry Trust. Account no: 21172654. Sort code; 40-34-45
Until 31 January 2021, public donations made to Mary’s Meals ‘Double The Love’ appeal will be doubled by the UK government, up to £2 million. For details and to donate, see www.marysmeals.org.uk
The St Vincent de Paul Society is holding a series of online information meetings where you can learn more about their work. This week on Tuesday 24th November at 6pm; Wednesday 25th at 3pm; Friday 27th at 4pm and Saturday 28th at 4pm. For details and registration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Every year, Aid to the Church campaigns to draw attention to the human rights tragedy of Christian and other religious persecution. This Wednesday, 25th November, is Red Wednesday. For details of online events, see www.acnuk.org
Lived Catholicism(s): New Questions and Untold Stories. An online conference this week, Monday 23rd-Tuesday 24th November. See CCS web page for details and registration.
A four-part series of online discussions on ‘Women and Liturgy,’ Continues on Monday 23rd November at 7.00pm. For details and registration, see https://www.appliedtheology.org.uk/living-liturgy-forum/
A ‘talent,’ in Jesus’ time, meant a huge quantity of precious metal – 50 pounds or more of gold or silver. It was more wealth than Jesus’ disciples could imagine. So the rich man in today’s parable is trusting each of his servants with a huge sum of money. Two of the servants repay the master’s trust; they work hard and make money for him. The third servant hides the wealth that was given to him in a hole in the ground. When the master comes home, he is punished for his lack of initiative.
What is the message of this parable? Is Jesus really teaching us to make as much money as we can? That doesn’t seem to fit with his teaching in other Gospel stories, where he describes money as a ‘tainted thing,’ and warns the rich that they can’t take their wealth with them when they die.
The most precious thing that Jesus gives to his disciples is their faith in him. Our faith is given to us as a gift; a treasure that is not meant to be hidden away, but to be shared with others. Every disciple is called to witness to their faith, and to let others know about God’s love for them. The third servant acted in the way that he did because he was afraid of his master. His fear stopped him from taking risks; it prevented him from being brave and creative. If, instead, we trust in the God of love, we can do amazing things with the gift of faith.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Pamela Penrose, whose Funeral Service will be celebrated at St Cuthbert’s on Tuesday 17th November at 12 noon. Please contact Fr Andrew if you wish to attend the funeral.